The Vikings lived from the 8th to the 11th century, originally in the Nordic countries of Europe: Denmark, Sweden and Norway. They worked as farmers and traders, but are best known for their seafaring. A few tribes journeyed all the way to Russia and China to sell their wares. Other Vikings sailed toward Spain. The population in their homeland had grown so large that there was no longer enough space for them all. Thus, the Vikings hoped to find new territory into which they could settle. They did not go about it in a timid way. They robbed people and then burned down their houses. That is why people in many countries feared the Vikings and attempted to bribe their attackers with ransom money. However, that made the Vikings even greedier.
When the Vikings were sailing in their ships, they needed assistance to help them find their way. At night, they used the North Star to guide them, the brightest star in the sky. Yet they also found important clues in the ocean, too: They were able to recognize that they were approaching land by the bunches of grass found floating in the water. On rivers, the forests, mountains and rocks were the most important points of orientation. But they were not always able to find the right way. One legend states that a Viking who was actually on his way to Greenland lost his orientation. The coast on which he ultimately landed belonged to what is now America. Thus, the Vikings discovered that continent almost 500 years before Columbus.